Zapad Tensions in September
Col. Sam Gardiner, USAF (ret) to samgard + 55 moreshow details
More than any other exercise since the end of the Cold War, it looks as if the September 14th Zapad 2017 exercise will involve some direct tensions between NATO and Russia.

I've copied below extracts from a piece in today's Washington Post. Secretary Mattis, speaking in Vilnius, says the United States will take over the Baltic Air Policing mission during the exercise, and the United States will put additional ships in the Baltic to monitor the exercise. In addition, the United States is considering adding additional air defense assets in the region for the period of the exercise.

Not mentioned in the article is that at the same time the Russians are doing Zapad 2017 (14-20 September), a United States rotational brigade will be moving into the area.


Sam Gardiner
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U.S. shifting forces to monitor large Russian military exercises, officials say
Washington Post
By Thomas Gibbons-Neff May 10 at 6:52 AM

VILNIUS, Lithuania — The U.S. military will increase its ability observe Russian troop movements near the Baltic states during a large military exercise planned by Moscow this summer, U.S. defense officials said.
The United States will put ships in the Baltic Sea and take over the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s air policing in the region ahead of the exercises in August and September, said the two officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military maneuvers.
The Russian exercise, known as Zapad, or West, occurs every four years and will take place this year in western Russia, including Belarus and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.
The U.S. military estimates that 70,000 to 100,000 Russian troops could take part in the exercise, the officials said, adding that the Russian military could also take the opportunity to upgrade certain equipment permanently stationed in the region.
Specifically, the officials said that they expect the Russian missile defenses in Kaliningrad to be permanently upgraded with nuclear-capable Iskander ballistic missile systems. (Author obviously does not understand what the Iskander is.)
In response, several countries in the region are considering additional ground-based air defenses, the defense officials said, adding that the United States also could deploy Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries during the Zapad exercise if needed. The Patriot is capable of intercepting aircraft and ballistic missiles.
“We will deploy whatever capability is necessary here,” said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday during a visit to Lithuania to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to NATO and shore up support for the Baltic states. “We will talk to the leaders of each of the [NATO] nations and we’ll work this out in Brussels.”
Mattis said he had “no concerns” about the upcoming Zapad exercise, adding that’s it routine and he hopes “it stays routine.”

The prime ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania say that their respective countries are ready for Zapad, a large-scale military exercise to be held jointly by Russia and Belarus in September, and feel safe after NATO partners have deployed additional capabilities to the Baltic region.

"We are ready as sovereign states, as the Baltic states and as NATO member states," Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said at a joint news conference with his Estonian and Latvian counterparts in Klaipėda on Friday.

Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas said that the three countries "are strong in their unity," while Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis said that NATO troops stationed in all three Baltic countries "are a great and important assurance" that allows the three nations to feel safer than they did a couple of years ago.